SouthPeak Games – Ninjatown review

cute but challenging tower defence strategy
Photo of SouthPeak Games – Ninjatown
£24.99

Somehow the idea of a cute and cuddly Ninja warrior sounds like a contradiction in terms, but when you learn that this game is based on a much larger collection of cute cartoon figures known as Shawnimals, it all starts to make sense. Now it would be tempting at this point to dismiss this as likely to be suitable only to very young gamers, but the twee exterior hides a subtly addictive slice of real-time strategy.

In Ninjatown you play the role of the venerable Ol’ Master Ninja who’s learnt that their traditional enemy, Mr. Demon, is planning to lead his army of Wee Devils out of the neighbouring Dark Forest in a number of daring attacks on the village. In a variation of the tower defence style of strategy game, you have to marshal the Ninjas to fight off the threat, while also making sure not to upset the Dino Slug on nearby Mount Feroshi who might make the volcano erupt.

The single player action takes place across nine districts and 36 maps, with the larger map (revealing the route the enemy will take) on the top screen and the blow-up map (where the main combat takes place) on the touch screen. You begin by placing huts along the route that will spawn Wee Ninjas (fast and light) or Anti Ninjas (slow and heavy). The huts can be upgraded or destroyed and Ninjas can be sent back to them to recuperate when their health drops too low.

The ‘money’ system is measured in cookies (a Ninja speciality apparently) and each enemy defeated brings more cookies which can be used for upgrades. As you progress, more Melee Ninjas become available with special abilities (such as faster reflexes and ground-smashing) and a Ranged group get involved that act as snipers and throw snowballs and fireballs. There are also Modifier Buildings you can create that will grant your Ninjas extra speed, power or attack range.

In addition, the more enemies you defeat, the more Ol’ Master Ninja’s Hickory Cane glows with happiness, which lets you access his special powers. You can even knock your foes over with a gust of wind by blowing into the microphone and, once you’ve cleared a map, you’re given a Character Token which is an extra weapon to be used when you’re threatened with being overwhelmed.

The further you progress, the faster the rate of the attacks and the range of the enemy’s Devils, so you have to think quickly when choosing which Ninjas to place in which areas of the route. You’ll soon find yourself replaying several levels, as the difficulty level is better suited to older rather than younger kids. The good news is that there’s even a multiplayer option (who clears the level fastest wins) that can be set up with only one cartridge.

Company: SouthPeak Games


Verdict
A deceptively clever and engrossing tower defence RTS that quickly becomes challenging and frenetic. Don't be fooled by the twee packaging: you'll need to be a Smart Ninja to graduate from this academy, young Grasshopper.